Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

War weekend 3: Rex and the Crusaders .....

KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS. Ah, 1954 that era of westerns and costumers, ideal for an 8 year old’s (as I was then) first forays to the cinema. Those cardboard castles – Prince Valiant, Black Shield of Falworth, and this Crusaders saga, plus The Silver Chalice, The Egptian, Sign of The Pagan, Attila etc. 
David Butler also directed that early Cinemascope western THE COMMAND that year, and KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS is more of the same, maybe shot around the same locations, with the Crusaders clanking around in their chain-mail as the cavalry, and those hordes of infidels the redskins. 
In fact I think this crusaders epic is generally considered one of the 50 Worst Films Of All Time

We follow King Richard (grumpy George Sanders) and his cousin Lady Edith (Virginia Mayo – and yes, she really does say “War, War, is all you think about, Dick Plantagenet”!). Sir Kenneth (Laurence Harvey) loves the lady, but cannot marry her. So far, so turgid, as various knights plot to kill the king. 
Then, just as we are getting bored, things liven up with the arrival of Rex Harrison in blackface as Saladin. (This was a lean time for Harrison, after the Landis scandal of the late 40s, before MY FAIR LADY came his way). Here is an actor enjoying himself and relishing the absurdity of it all, as his Saracen leader runs rings around the crusaders and falls for the white Christian woman. The climax of course is pure cardboard castle time, how well I remembered that fight on the drawbridge … The Holy Land looks just like California and the whole Crusaders thing and why they are there remains a mystery. After the success of IVANHOE perhaps Warners thought another romp with knights and armour, and also from Scott – “The Talisman” – would be a success. KING RICHARD though remains a costumer to laugh at and enjoy its terrible absurdity.

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